the rambling boy
How to make American great again
By LONN TAYLOR
Like most people my age, I think this country has gone to hell since my youth, so I am enthusiastically on board with our new president’s campaign to Make America Great Again. In fact I have 12 concrete proposals, which, if adopted, would take us a long way toward achieving that goal. Implementing them will require drastic federal and state action and will probably offend those who are squeamish about civil liberties, but disregard for the rule of law seem to be a theme of the new administration. After all, as someone – was it Lenin? – said, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. So here are my eggs:
All drivers of vehicles owned by oil companies must install governors that will limit their speeds to 70 miles per hour. Last Sunday the highway from Balmorhea to Toyah was blocked for hours by an overturned Apache Oil Company truck whose driver had tried to take a curve too fast. Slowing down oil field traffic will not only make America greater but safer.
All restaurants must provide hat racks or hooks for hats and all patrons must use them. Male Texans are born gentlemen and it is painful for them to have to eat with their hats on because there is no place to put them. No nation that dines wearing hats can ever achieve greatness.
No waitperson in a restaurant will be permitted to ask, “Still working on it?” when inquiring if a patron has finished a meal. “May I take your plate?” is the first step toward greatness. “I hope you have enjoyed your meal” will definitely make us great again.
No person of any category will be permitted to respond to a spoken “thank you” with the words, “No problem.” “You are welcome” is the very essence of greatness.
There shall be a dress code for all airplane travelers. Ties will be optional for males in economy class; socks will be required in all classes. Tank tops, tee shirts, wife-beaters, sweat pants, and flip-flops will be prohibited in all classes. My wife, Dedie, is working on standards for female travelers. No nation that travels in its underwear can ever be great.
These first five proposals are largely matters of individual action, easily achievable if people will just straighten up and fly right. The next six are matters of social reform, but I am confident that we can accomplish them if we just put our shoulders to the wheel and keep our minds fixed on future greatness.
Education reform. Let’s get right to the heart of the matter. Education is not about computer programs or standardized testing or charter schools. It’s about teachers. Triple all teachers’ salaries and let them teach. Teachers should earn at least as much as members of congress ($174,000 a year). Make teaching an honorable profession, like being a doctor or a lawyer or a real estate billionaire. And then hold any student who begins a sentence with the word “like” back a year.
Public health. All children under 12 will be required to play outside 2 hours each day. Outdoor chores, such as feeding livestock and fixing fence, may be substituted for 1 hour of play each day.
Intellectual development. All persons over 4 will be required to read one book a week. Any book. Any length. Just read it. It’s a start. A visit to a museum may be substituted for a book once a month.
Environmental awareness. Every adult will take one or more children to a nature center once a month and require them to make a list of 100 things they see there. If no nature center is available a walk in the country or in a city park may be substituted until the adults have built a nature center.
Electoral reform. Every citizen over 18 who fails to vote in a local or national election shall have their citizenship taken away and awarded to the next legal immigrant in line for citizenship. The right to vote is the most precious right an American has. Failure to exercise it dishonors it. Our country’s greatness depends on the percentage of our citizens who vote.
Immigration reform. Every illegal immigrant from Mexico who walks across the Chihuahua Desert to get here should be awarded immediate citizenship. These courageous and enterprising people who demonstrate their desire to become citizens with their feet are the kind of people we want in this country. Besides, they have been our neighbors for a century and a half and we used to be one nation. What is there to be afraid of? We can be great together.
My twelfth proposal will be the hardest to achieve, but we have been edging towards it by fits and starts ever since it was first set forth in 1776 and there were encouraging signs this week that we are slowly getting there. When we declared our independence from Great Britain our founding fathers wrote out a document containing a startling new idea: that all of humankind, simply by virtue of being human, was endowed with certain rights – the founders called them “unalienable” rights – including, but not limited to, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The greatness of America over the past 240 years has consisted of the expansion of the categories of people that are endowed with those rights and the expansion of the rights themselves, so that they were specifically written down in the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Whether we will be great again does not depend on where we build walls or who we keep out of our country. It depends on how we treasure and guard and honor these rights. I will admit to having dark doubts about our greatness recently, but the sun broke through last Sunday when I read that a hundred lawyers had shown up unbidden at DFW Airport to offer their services free to the immigrants stranded there by the sudden executive order banning all immigration from certain countries, and that the mayor of Dallas had gone out there to distribute yellow roses of welcome to those unfortunate folks. I think we are already on our way to being great again.
Lonn Taylor is a historian and writer who lives in Fort Davis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.